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When times are more tumultuous than eating a gallon of birthday cake ice cream when it isn’t your birthday, having steps to fortify finances is like having Tums with a chilled ginger ale while looking at the wrong end of an ice cream pail.

Like any fortress, the foundation has to be built before the crisis. Once solid, it can stand the testament of chaos up to and including financial invasions.

Though there are plenty of ways to fortify finances, as a personal finance nerd with a blog to prove it, there are 4 basic steps to fortify finances.

Budget Basics

Budgets are how I see what comes, goes, and crashes. The only way I can leverage past data with current situations is by having a budget. Trying to run my finances without a budget is like trying to drive with a broken gas gauge.

Can it be done?

Yes.

Does it cause concern and occasional lessons in hitchhiking?

Absolutely.

My budget begins every month with zero and I try to close it with zero too. Half my post-tax pay goes toward groceries, utilities, and a mortgage. The other half is funneled to saving goals, gas and giving. I leverage prior budgets to determine present spending.

Then, I place the allotted amounts in their designated category in an excel spreadsheet and go about my business. Lately, I’ve been keeping a note on my phone that I update after every purchase. Having an estimate of remaining funds is putting the fun back in funds.

If I do have any leftover money at the end of the month, it’s rolled into the big overarching savings goal. This year I’m trying to save 12k for travel, sinking funds, and retirement. I completed my travel savings goal ($3,000) and I’m right on the edge of having sinking funds topped off ($3,000). Soon, I’ll be shifting focus to the Roth IRA ($6,000).

A budget is parental oversight for a world where wayward spending could send my dreams crashing.

Emergency Fun(d)

Once the structure is built, an emergency fund is like the insurance policy for flooding, fires, and when my neighbor Bob the not-so-builder decides homemade fireworks are better than store-bought fireworks.

Life is full of surprises. Some good, some bad, but most are expensive. I cushion the blow by having a fund devoted to surprises.

I have a stable job with little chance of layoff, zero debt (outside of a mortgage), and 2 other savings vehicles. Currently, I have an emergency account that has 2 months of post-tax pay. It’s on the leaner side of the standard 3 to 6-month recommendation, but it doesn’t cause any undue indigestion.

Like a little kid that could, I like naming things including emergency funds. My emergency fund is called, Skilled Sailor. After the quote, “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”

Baton the hatches and pass the Dramamine, I see a recession on the horizon!

All About That Value

I have a short list of values; two of the three include adventure and nature. If I can do adventure in nature it doesn’t matter how bad the instant coffee is, it’s worth it.

Steps to fortify finances are all about supporting my shortlist of values with long-term dreams (retirement).

I have short-term goals (adventure, travel, life list) and long-term goals (cush retirement). Everything else is optional.

I follow brokeGIRLrich’s suggestions, “Set goals, contribute money towards goals, repeat for 30-40 years. Make extra money, contribute extra towards the goals, repeat for maybe 20-30 instead.”

Lean, Green, Financial Machine

To flex my frugal, fortify finances, and ensure I have evergreen landscaping, I live lean. For me, this includes:

  • Daily bag lunches
  • Water as the default drink
  • Restaurants being an occasional treat, not a daily event
  • Shopping secondhand before buying new
  • Avoiding instant shopping
  • Engaging with side hustles from passive credit card rewards to active dog sitting
  • Participating in free hobbies to put the fun in my funds
    • Fitness: running, walking, hiking, dancing
    • Enjoyment: drawing, juggling, chatting with friends
    • Learning: reading library books, learning new skills online

Each of these savings is small but can leverage a mighty amount because they’re woven into a lifestyle of saving more than spending.

Steps to Fortify Finances

Yesterday, our weather was dry and hot. In the summer, when we have hot days, it’s common for thunderstorms to brew in the evening. Thunderstorms heavy with hail.

The wind went from mild to wild with a splattering of sprinkles in tow. After a few minutes of precious precip, it dumped the rest of its contents which included golf-ball-sized hail. The stones were so loud on our roof, that I had to shout to Mr. BuLL who was in the same room, just to be heard above the ice pummeling years off our roof. It sounded like an epic fight where everyone in Montana was brawling and bloody.

In moments that felt like days, the storm cleared. We ventured outside to survey the damage. Considering the size, force, and racket, we were fortunate to have minimal damage. After discussing our options and our small insurance deductible, Mr. BuLL and I were unconcerned.  

The value of a solid fortification is realized after the storm.

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